June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Division Experimentation & Lab-Oriented Studies
12.229.1 - 12.229.8
An Introduction to Mechatronics Experiment: LEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban Challenge
This work describes a laboratory experiment designed for an introductory mechatronics course to employ discovery-based learning. Two robotic vehicles are constructed using new LEGO Mindstorms NXT sets. One of the two moving robots is equipped with sensors and programmed to follow the prescribed path on an enlarged city map. The other robot has no sensors and is programmed to follow the first robot. Programming of the robots is accomplished using the National Instruments LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO Mindstorms NXT and the Mindstorms NXT software. The inter-robot communication necessary for robot following uses Bluetooth wireless technology. This experiment mimics some segments of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Urban Challenge – a 2007, $2,000,000 prize autonomous vehicle challenge to complete 60 miles in traffic in less than six hours.
LEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban Challenge is a six-hour engineering design experiment implemented as a part of an introductory mechatronics course. Its major function is to promote discovery-based active learning and knowledge systematization. Robot building is a powerful student motivational tool1. Mimicking an actual multimillion-dollar robotic prize competition2 further enhances student motivation. A set of new tools like LEGO Mindstorms Education Base Set with NXT technology (became available in August 2006) and the National Instruments LabVIEW Toolkit for LEGO Mindstorms NXT (became available for downloads in mid- December 2006) are implemented in this novel engineering design experiment. Bluetooth technology is used for robot-to-robot communication and control.
Previous Work and Justification
The LEGO Mindstorms NXT Urban Challenge experiment is a part of the pedagogical system implemented in the Introduction to Mechatronics course and the Mechatronics curriculum. This pedagogical system is based on McCarthy’s3 version of the Kolb4 learning cycle and was motivated in part by work presented by Harb et al5. According to Kolb and McCarthy one can learn new concepts by following a pattern (the learning cycle) exemplified by the questions why, what, how, and what if. A set of activities is associated with each part of the learning cycle. Active discovery-based learning is considered an important part of this learning cycle, especially in engineering6. Bruner7 defines discovery learning as a cognitive instructional model whereby students are empowered and encouraged to learn concepts and principles through active hypothesis testing and discovery. “The student will have to explore examples and from them 'discover' the principles or concepts which are to be learned7.”
Engineering laboratory courses use active learning. Depending on the course objectives, the laboratory experiments are either of a cookbook type where students follow a set of instructions and all produce similar results, an organized project type where the instructions are not precise
Jaksic, N., & Spencer, D. (2007, June), An Introduction To Mechatronics Experiment: Lego Mindstorms Next Urban Challenge Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2599
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